Matlock Town’s first game of 2016 might not take place until Saturday January 16 at home to Ramsbottom United thanks to the monsoon conditions.

Last Saturday’s home meeting with Grantham Town was called off during the morning and now has been rearranged by the Evo-Stik NPL for Tuesday February 2. But the signs do not look good for this weekend with Matlock due at Bishop Auckland’s Heritage Park to take on Darlington 1883.

The North East has been battered by the storms, and the Quakers’ last home game was an FA Trophy victory against Mossley as long ago as 31 October, with their last home league fixture being a home win over Mickleover Sports seven days earlier.

Darlington also ground share with landlords Bishop Auckland who have staged three Northern League fixtures there in November, but there has been no action during December, including the postponement of Bishops’ scheduled home match with Dunston Federation during the Christmas Holiday week.

“It was frustrating not to play Grantham for it would have been nice to go into another game after the good performance at Ilkeston” said boss Mark Hume. “It would have finished the Christmas and New Year period off nicely but we can’t do anything about it. We’ve done quite well with our home games, to be honest I never really expected the Blyth and Buxton games to go ahead, so we can’t complain.”

More downpours are expected and looking ahead through the uncertainty ahead of Saturday he added “We’ll be planning for the game as we have to but we’ll probably provisionally arrange some training for the lads should the game be off.”

If the weather abates and the game is on, Hume admits his side will face a tough challenge against a side who won at leaders Blyth Spartans last timeout, but he also pointed to results last Saturday to highlight the unpredictability of the league.

“They’ve come up from the division below and have strengthened so they’re a good side with a very good following, but they’re the type of games people want to play in and our lads will be looking forward to it. Look at results last Saturday though when the bottom four clubs all won against leading sides, and look at Barwell, I wouldn’t have expected them to be hammered 7-0 at Salford, so the league can be very much hit and miss and it proved that if a side is not on it on the day anyone can beat anyone.”

Ted Cribley will be missing from the Gladiators line up as he starts a three match ban following his red card in the home defeat by Buxton on Boxing Day but better news for the travelling fans is that full back Micky Harcourt is expected to have recovered from his hamstring injury and Ben Algar should be back after illness.

Meanwhile central defender Harry Coates has had his NPL registration with Matlock cancelled for the time being to allow him to play for First Division North outfit Harrogate Railway Athletic. Leeds based Coates signed for Town at the start of the season before being recalled by his parent club Harrogate Town last month.

“Harrogate Town had some injuries so Harry had to go back but now they have players fit again he needs games. Laurie (Wilson) and Adam (Yates) are doing so well together at present that I can’t really alter things there, but we have an agreement with Harrogate Railway that should anything happen and we need Harry, we can have him straight back. I just can’t find him a starting place at the moment” said Hume who is aware that his defensive options would be limited if Wilson or Yates or both picked up injuries.

“I’m looking now for another defender and also a striker but the defender is my priority. I also want someone with experience and a permanent addition, someone I can rely on to be in the squad every week and perform consistently for I doubt we’ll get someone as good as Julian Banton on loan like we had last season. I’m wanting a settled squad, that’s why I’m favouring a permanent signing. But I think we’ve got a good squad, we’re okay defensively apart from competition in the centre although Micky Harcourt can play there. We’re really well off in midfield and it would be nice to have that extra striker to compete with the lads we already have there.”

Ian Richardson

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